EastEnders in crisis! Anthony Moon axed as ratings hit an almost record low in soap's history

By Cecile Metcalf

Axed! Matt Lapinskas who plays loveable rogue Anthony Moon in Albert Square is set to leave the soap

He's the loveable rogue of the square, with a cheeky answer for everything, but EastEnders' bosses have decided even Anthony Moon can't talk his way out of dismal ratings and axed the character.

As millions of viewers abandon what used to be Britain's best soap, producers hope the shock departure of actor Matt Lapinskas will be enough to lure fans back.

Ratings for the soap have plummeted to less than six million, an almost record low for the show which in it's heyday managed to pull in more than 30million viewers.

Crisis point was reached when just 5.7 million tuned in to see the wayward teen storyline unfold this week involving Lauren Branning and Lucy Beale's alcohol fuelled

Matt, who is one half of the popular likely lad duo the Moon brothers, will leave closely behind other EastEnders favourites that have abandoned the soap.

These include recently departed veteran cast members Bianca, Pat and Ricky Butcher.

EastEnders legend Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell next to the Albert Square street sign when the soap was in its prime

BBC insiders blamed the screening of ITV show Britain's Got Talent for the poor viewing figures and said the soap has been doing fantastically well week in week out.

And the broadcaster issued the following statement: 'EastEnders fans are in for an explosive few months ahead. Including the lead up to Janine and Michael's big wedding, Kat and Sharon's return to the Square, twist and turns with the Branning's, plus our special live insert into the Olympics opening ceremony with Walford's Billy Mitchell carrying the torch'.

Adding to the sting for the BBC Chiefs is the news that ITV1 rival soap Coronation Street is smashing EastEnders in the viewer figures battle.

ITV soap Coronation Street has been pulling in viewers with gripping storylines including Eileen Grimshaw's love triangle with Paul and his wife Lesley

Recent figures indicate they are pulling in over 8 million per episode, with engrossing plots including Lesley's Alzheimers demise and Eileen's love triangle.

The signing of Michelle Collins to Coronation Street to play brash landlady Stella from right under EastEnders bosses noses will also have fueled the crisis at the BBC.

Coronation Street again beat EastEnders by winning Best Soap at the National

Television Awards earlier this year, following which EastEnders executive producer Bryan Kirkwood announced he would be leaving his role in March.

Writing in a blog to audiences, Mr Kirkwood insisted it was his decision to leave EastEnders.

He said: ‘Being the executive producer of EastEnders is one of the most exciting jobs in TV, but it’s also the most exhausting - so after two years, I’ve decided it’s time to leave Walford.

‘It’s been a privilege to tell stories that have genuinely had the nation talking. I’m going to take with me some brilliant friends and memories.’

Kirkwood joined the soap from teen drama Hollyoaks and some felt he did not have the right ideas for BBC1’s biggest drama.